If you have taken creatine, ephedra, or any other supplement non-stop for the past year or so, raise your hand? If you're a serious lifter and you're not raising your hand, then you shame on you. Most serious lifters believe that when they are "off" of supplements that their physiques will literally go down the drain. I firmly believe this because I have encountered many serious lifters who believed that supplements could make or break their physiques.
At one point in time, I was one of these believers. However, I have realized the error of my ways and turned to cycling my supplements. Before I give you examples of supplement cycling, I would like to address a very important biological point. Without getting scientific, the human body is a fascinating piece of biological machinery. It is smart. Smarter than we choose to believe. When our bodies are exposed to exogenous substances such as supplements, alcohol, drugs, etc, it builds a tolerance. This tolerance requires us to consume more and more of the product in order to get the desired effect.
This characteristic stems from receptor attenuation. You see, our body is full of receptors which have the ability to bind to specific receptor agonists and antagonists. Receptor agonists activate the receptors while antagonists do the exact opposite. So the more receptors you flood over the time, the more they become desensitized. This can lead to receptor burnout which can cause a myriad problems. So basically, abuse of a substance is a no-no.
Creatine is one of the most popular sports supplements in the industry today. Why? Because it works. I've read countless articles which suggests creatine's effectiveness and not one which suggests that creatine is detrimental to the human body. However, all of the articles I have read involve the use of 20 grams of creatine utilizing a one month on, X amount of time off system. So the subjects all took 20 grams of creatine in divided doses throughout the day for an entire month and then took some time off. The time varied from study to study but for the sake of receptor attenuation, I would take at least 2 weeks off. If you've ever tried creatine, then you will know how quickly you can make gains when you first introduce it to your system.
However, these gains began to diminish over time because your body simply got accustomed to the creatine. Now if you would "cycle" creatine, so to speak, then theoretically, you could make gains similar to the ones you made when you initially began creatine intake. There are numerous ways to cycle creatine and I will suggest a few ways which were successful for me in the past.
20 grams for one month straight divided into four 5 gram doses while taking 2 weeks off in between cycles.
10 grams after working out every day for 6 weeks and then taking 2 weeks off.
5 grams after working out every day for 8 weeks and then taking 2 weeks off.
Now you may cycle your creatine differently and if this different method works for you, then stick with it until it stops working. Remember that I am merely sharing with you some of my successful cycles with creatine.
Now here is a supplement which I have abused for the past two years and I'm not even sure why. At first, it was for its proposed fat burning properties but later, it became apparent I was using it just to feel normal, whatever that was. The first time I took a thermogenic, I remember feeling this alertness which I have never felt before. What an amazing supplement, or so I thought at the time. If you don't know, thermogenics drain the adrenal glands. The more you use it, the more burned out your adrenals become. It's as simple as that. Now if you're wondering if your adrenals are burned out, there is an easy way to find out. If you get headaches and feel extremely lethargic when you're not taking thermogenics, then your adrenals are burned out. What you have to do now is to assist your adrenals in recovery by eliminating all stimulants from your supplement stack. This includes ephedra, caffeine, etc. Now you should take a lot of Vitamin B5 and siberian ginseng. The first few days are always the hardest because you will feel the urge to take thermogenics but you must resist. Do this for a few weeks to repair your adrenals so that the next time you get on thermogenics, you can maximize your gains.
In order to keep your receptors from desensitizing, you need to cycle thermogenics. I have been very bad with cycling thermogenics since I've incorporated them into my supplement stack but I will tell you that it doesn't take a genius to figure out that the best way to take stimulants is to do sporadically. Here is an effective way to take any thermogenic and to keep your adrenals from burning out.
1. 2-4 thermogenic tabs on training days for 4-6 weeks and then take 2 weeks off from all stimulants.
-Supplements Which Do Not Need Cycling-
Protein, fortunately for bodybuilders, is one of those things which doesn't need to be cycled. You can consume protein to your liking but experts suggest anywhere from 1-2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight in order to maximize muscle gains. I try to consume about 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight because the latter is difficult to do if you want to have something of a life outside of training and eating.
Glutamine, the most abundant free form amino acid in the body, is another supplement which doesn't need cycling. Glutamine, whether you choose to believe it or not, is extremely important. If you don't believe me, then read some literature on glutamine because I don't want to sit here and walk you through its many uses.
Multivitamins and antioxidants also fall into this category. If you aren't taking one, you should and you should do it all of the time. Most of us can't get enough of the vitamins and minerals just from the foods we eat and a supplement is the best way to overcome this. There are a few other supplements which I believe do not need to be cycled but these three are the most important. Taking these three year round can only benefit you.
All supplements, just like creatine and thermogenics, should be cycled because of receptor attenuation. If you aren't cycling your supplements, then maybe it's time you thought about what you're doing to your body. Remember, it's better to train and supplement smart than to do it blindly. Train hard, train smart, think BIG!